Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Osman Özturgut


Jessica C. Kimmel


Lopita Nath


The number of students from Saudi Arabia studying in the United States is increasing; this study focused on understanding Saudi women studying in the United States. A qualitative phenomenological approach was used to address the main research question: What are the perceptions of Saudi women on their experiences as international college students in the United States? In an attempt to understand their experiences, eleven Saudi Arabian women were interviewed. Data were collected using a semi-structured interview format. Analysis of the data was conducted via a four-step process that consisted of transcribing the interviews, reduction, horizontalization, and imaginative variation (Merriam, 2002). Analysis of the data revealed four main themes: religion, family, academics, and transformation. 1. Religion: Each participant had a high regard for Islam and how it shaped theirexperiences in the United States. Islam remained at the core of their daily lives and affected everything from scheduling for prayer time to wearing the hijab. 2.Family: A high regard for the family emerged as an important cultural aspect. Familyis an essential component of the collectivist culture and had an impact on the experiences of the Saudi women, ranging from being a mother to the family that accompanies them. vi 3. Academics: All participants in this study confronted challenges and experiences similar to other international students, such as language barriers and adapting to a new and different system of education. 4. Transformation: Lastly, the women indicated some sort of transformation that emerged because of their experience studying in the United States. For example, they gained self-confidence in their abilities and expressed the desire to be change agents in their communities. The Saudi female student experience is multi-layered and their experiences are often, if not always, tied into their religion. Although each participant told a different story, all participants shared common experiences as Saudi female international students.